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  Books   17 Mar 2024  Book Review | Sympathetic detective, lame whodunit

Book Review | Sympathetic detective, lame whodunit

Published : Mar 17, 2024, 12:54 pm IST
Updated : Mar 17, 2024, 12:54 pm IST

It’s only towards the fag end of the book that the author remembers he promised us a serial killer, and gets his act together

Cover image of Razor Sharp
 Cover image of Razor Sharp

A serial killer is on the loose in Mumbai, and the beleaguered police force ropes in suspended cop Prakash Kadam (aka Kutta Kadam because he never lets go of the scent) to help. Not everyone wants him on the case, though.

Take Police Commissioner Chavan who is in mafia don Bhau Patil’s pocket: They’re both nervous that while Kadam’s sniffing around, he may chance upon their trafficking and drugs businesses. Unfortunately for Chavan, his junior SCP Rane calls the shots as he is chummy with Deputy Home Minister Gaikwad. As Chavan irritably explains to Bhau Patil, “The two are very close. I am Rane’s boss, yes, but Gaikwad is mine.” Chavan and Bhau Patil scheme to get Kadam off the case, naturally.

Gaikwad is no angel either — he wants to overthrow his immediate boss, and also has to deal with his drug addict son who is way out of control. Then, there’s Kadam’s messy personal life (wife left him and so many other unsettling things, his cup of sorrow truly runneth over). You’re also terribly worried about Kadam’s sweet superstitious sanskaari daughter who is blissfully unaware that her hacker boyfriend has a different side to him. There’s already enough to deal with, yet the author adds more characters to the chaos: A powerful tantric who keeps popping into the story, and a perverted cult leader who is busy doing the usual perverted cult leader things. Hello, what happened to the serial killer case, you may well ask. Hello? HELLO!!!

The case surfaces every now and then — mainly when the killer claims a new a victim. In between, you could just as well be reading a totally different book about a corrupt police force in a seedy city, dirty filthy political moves that are hailed as masterstrokes these days, and puke-inducing sexual peccadillos. It’s only towards the fag end of the book that the author remembers he promised us a serial killer, and gets his act together. Too little, too late. There’s no feeling of satisfaction even when the killer is finally revealed, mainly because the plot is contrived and convoluted with over-the-top woo-woo stuff.

It’s a shame that this new detective series makes such a sorry debut. While you like Kutta Kadam’s moniker, there’s precious little to like about the character. He’s modelled on almost every other fictional cop you read about all over the world these days: Allegedly brilliant at his job but currently down and out, blah blah. Personal problems and also not loved by the top brass, blah blah. Was driven to alcohol and is trying to stay dry, blah blah. Was wounded in the line of duty, had a breakdown, is reluctantly seeing a shrink, blah blah. Same old, same old. The only thing that makes him stand out (well, a bit) is his annoying habit of puffing out his cheeks, so you can’t be blamed for visualising him as a chipmunk. Cute if you like chipmunks, but certainly not imposing. Here’s hoping that he will grow into a more appealing character over the next few books.

Razor Sharp
By Ashwin Sanghi
pp. 310, Rs 399


Tags: book review 2024